Make Mine a Double: Why You Should Double Dip When Teaching Content in English (and How to Do It Right)

Make Mine a Double
Why You Should Double Dip When Teaching Content in English (and How to Do It Right)

Susan Verner
by Susan Verner 11,167 views

The days of isolating grammar from speaking from reading in ESL classes are waning.

Language learning does not happen so compartmentalized, and teachers who realize this and teach multiple aspects of language simultaneously will see the positive effect it has on their students. I have taught straight grammar classes and I have taught classes that encompass multiple aspects of language. Personally, I find the benefits that come with teaching language holistically are worth the effort it takes to teach that way. If you are looking for ideas on how to teach multiple aspects of language at the same time, here are some ideas for you.

Why Should You?

While teaching certain aspects of language overtly is still necessary, you might be surprised how many language points ESL students pick up just be being immersed in language. Strong language learners can learn pronunciation patterns, vocabulary, and discourse style without even realizing it happens and without thinking about what they and you are doing. Not every student will pick up language so effortlessly, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t create an environment where it is possible. When you plan your instruction so your students can learn multiple language aspects at the same time, you tie into their natural language acquisition process.

In addition, even students who don’t pick up language without trying benefit from multiple aspect instruction. The human brain is not compartmentalized even if our school schedules are. By teaching multiple language aspects at the same time, you are teaching more holistically and that is how our brains work. While struggling learners may overt instruction after a holistic experience, the first experience prepares their subconscious to receive the information you present in the overt language lesson.

Are you still wondering if holistic language instruction is really effective? Do you want to see it in action before you make any judgments for yourself? Great. Here are some ways to double dip when it comes to teaching English. They are simple, straightforward, and will set up an more holistic learning environment for your students.

4 Amazing Ideas to Double Dip When Teaching Content in English

  1. 1

    Listening and Grammar with Dialogues

    Whether you teach grammar class or listening comprehension, you have the perfect venue for teaching multiple language points. Rather than giving your students a dialogue written out to teach a certain grammar point, introduce the conversation aurally first. Either use a clip available online or record you and some friends reading the dialogue. Then play that for your students before you give them the transcript. When you do, they will have the chance to listen for the specific grammar points as well as absorb English pronunciation, intonation patterns, and speech pacing. Don’t stop with recorded conversation, however. Make copies of the transcript and give them to your students. They can then refer to the conversation, learn discource patterns, remember what they heard, and learn the target grammar point all at the same time.

  2. 2

    Listening and Reading with Online Resources

    Do you frequently use realia in class? It’s a great way to get students ready to tackle real world language. It’s also a great way to teach listening and reading at the same time. Many sites which have news clips available for viewing also have transcripts of the material for download. By giving your students a copy to read while they listen to a news clip, they will learn how pronunciation and spelling tie together. They will also hear new vocabulary and be able to link what they hear to the morphemes that they see on the page. After your students have both listened to and read the content, you can proceed to teach reading comprehension, new vocabulary, and content to your class.

  3. 3

    Reading and Listening with Audio Books

    If you teach reading class and your students are ready to tackle a novel in English, don’t throw them into the book cold. Try giving them an audio recording to prep them for the first page of the novel. Whether you play a short bit of the book to the entire class or make the entire novel available for your students during free learning time, listening to the material first will help them understand what they are reading when they have their noses in the novel. Spoken words aren’t the only thing that will help your students. They will benefit from the voice actors and how they bring the story to life. Your students will hear pronunciation patterns, inflection, and pacing in spoken English. When your students have listened to what they are about to read, they will also have higher comprehension of what they see on the page. Audio books aren’t the only way to do this. You can also show part or all of a movie whose book your students will be reading. By having some knowledge of the plot as well as exposure to new vocabulary, your students will have a skeleton in place for reading comprehension as they work their way through the novel.

  4. 4

    Listening and Speaking with Shadow Reading

    The fun technique known as shadow reading helps students learn speaking and reading at the same time while also teaching pronunciation and discourse. To shadow read, students have a transcript in front of them. They read the transcript aloud while listening to the audio of the dialogue. As they read, they try to match their timing and pronunciation to that on the audio. The first time through keep the audio loud and have students speak more softly. The second time through reverse that and see how well your students can keep in synch with what they hear. You can play the dialogue as many times as you like, turning down your recording each time and having your students speak up.

You may have already tried these holistic language instruction techniques in class. But if you haven’t, give one a try. You will be pleased to see how well your students pick up on what they are learning as well as what you are modeling for them.

What are some of your favorite holistic language instruction activities?

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